Restored glass-bottom boat now Little Cayman tourist vessel

Tourists disembark from ‘Miss Polly’ at Owen Island, near Little Cayman.

A tour operator has opened a window into Little Cayman’s underwater treasures for non-divers or snorkelers after he spotted an abandoned glass-bottom boat while walking home from work one day.

Now with “Miss Polly” restored and operational, Little C Tours, a successful Caymanian-owned and operated business, provides land and sea tours for those who live in and visit Little Cayman.

It was a dream come true for local owner Damian Bancroft to have “Miss Polly” gliding through the water, with him at the helm and visitors enjoying the trip of a lifetime.

Visitors on Little C Tours enjoy local Caymanian dishes prepared by the crew, as well as a variety of tour packages around the island.

“I grew up close to the waters around Spotts-Newlands on Grand Cayman [and] as a child and teenager went fishing almost every day,” Mr. Bancroft said.

“I like to see people smile and the excitement on their faces, especially the children when they hook a fish.”

Mr. Bancroft said “Miss Polly” was just a shell of a boat when he first saw it, but fortunately, there was no rot.

After making inquiries, he also found out the boat had been out of commission for seven years and had quite a bit of history attached to it.

He first saw the boat in the yard of the late Linton Tibbetts, founder of Cox Lumber, the Brac Beach Resort and the Little Cayman Beach Resort. Mr. Tibbetts had bought the glass-bottom boat for his wife Polly, who did not know how to swim, because she wanted to see what the underwater scenery of South Hole Sound looked like. Mr. Tibbetts passed away in 2011, and Polly Tibbetts died in 2016.

Mr. Bancroft bought the boat with his savings, salary and tip money he had received from his job at Little Cayman Beach Resort’s Beach Nuts Bar. It took him a year to get the boat seaworthy.

Linton Tibbetts behind the wheel of ‘Miss Polly’ in earlier years.

“I wanted to honor Mr. Tibbetts’s wife and his legacy and to boost tourism on the island,” Mr. Bancroft said.

At his Window Bay home, Mr. Bancroft painted the inside of the boat, repaired the seats, sprayed the railings black, redid the roof railing and covered it with silver thatch palms. A 60 horsepower Yamaha outboard engine completed the restoration work last August. The boat was launched in September 2018.

He kept the name “Miss Polly” because it is considered bad luck to change a boat name.

“From the beginning of time, sailors would say that the unluckiest or bad luck ships were the ones that had their names changed,” Mr. Bancroft said.